The Vancouver Canucks have a very important off-season ahead of them. While the draft is of utmost importance, free agency is also a key factor, and is something the team needs to be wary of.
When one looks at the Vancouver Canucks roster, it is easy to see the needs. Outside of the “core four” players, of Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat the team has holes in every position. The easiest solution to these problems would be to go out and sign an expensive free agent, but there are a handful of reasons why this would be a terrible idea.
This off-season presents an abundance of high-quality free agents hitting the market, and two of them have caught the eyes of many Canucks fans. These two players are San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson and Columbus left winger Artemi Panarin.
Of the pair, Panarin might make a bit of sense. In the last few seasons, the Russian has established himself as an elite winger in the league and would undoubtedly help the Canucks in the immediacy as well as in the future. Panarin is also of an age (27) where he would likely still be productive come this teams time to win. Unfortunately, he is likely to demand a salary too high for the Canucks to invest in.
At the moment, Vancouver has lots of cap space and would be able to throw money at a free agent, however with the pending renewals of the “core four”, that cap space is smaller than it may seem. Panarin would make sense as he completes a full line in the top six, and he may be enough to squeeze the Canucks into the playoffs, much like the 2018-19 Blue Jackets.
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On the other end of the game is aging defenceman, Erik Karlsson. A star turned in Ottawa, the Swede has established himself as one of the best blueliners in the history of the game.
He brings outstanding offensive production, as well as reliable defensive performances. Unfortunately, he has the very likely potential of turning into the Loui Eriksson of defence.
The 28-year-old would likely demand a lengthy contract of seven to eight years, along with a salary of massive proportions. This would mean the Canucks would be tied to the defender well into his 30s, a time when many players production and usefulness begin to fall off a cliff.
Yes, Canucks’ general manager Jim Benning did say “you win with 26-35 year-olds.” However, a Karlsson signing would signify his intentions to win now, rather than have foresight as to when this team could truly compete for the cup.
If Karlsson was to sign, the Canucks would lose a ton of cap space and may have to let go of one of their young stars. Can you imagine the uproar if the Canucks were unable to re-sign Quinn Hughes because of an unproductive, and old Karlsson being tied up? It’s a scary thought but is something very realistic if they do go out and throw money.
While Hughes’s future on the defence could be in jeopardy with the signing of Karlsson, it could be very similar with the forward if Panarin were to join the team. If the Vancouver Canucks have any foresight, they will be very wary of throwing any money away at free agency, even if it is for elite talents such as Karlsson or Panarin. Maybe in a few years, they can go get a big free agent, but the “win-now” window is not yet open, so they should stay clear of any risky moves.